“Out of Egypt”: The Red Sea Crossing
“It’s a trap!”
If you are a Star Wars™ person, you know exactly where that phrase comes from and perhaps even read it in the voice of the character who said it: Admiral Ackbar. If you are not a Star Wars™ person, I will spare you the whole backstory and simply give you the immediate context. The Rebels (who are the good guys—although with that said, see last week’s post), believe they have the advantage on their foe, the Empire, only to find out that their surprise attack was far from it.
That’s right; it was a trap. At which point Admiral Ackbar declares what had become obvious.
And the rest, as they say, is history. Admiral Ackbar is now a meme. You probably have seen him or heard him, maybe without realizing who he was.
Now, go ahead and read this week’s Bible story without hearing Admiral Ackbar in the background. Sorry about that.
Escaped…but not Quite
Many of us might think that the rescue of the Israelites took place right after the Passover when Pharaoh told them to leave Egypt. We can see in our mind’s eye the joyful Israelites loading up their goods and the plunder God had promised them and heading out of town as the Egyptians grieve and Pharaoh seethes. That is when we see the credits begin to roll, right? It’s the end of the story—or at least this part. God had rescued His people. Not quite.
The problem was that rescue was not merely out of the city limits, it was out of the kingdom. And Egypt wasn’t a tiny place. The people had to travel quite a distance to be out of its borders. And it was during this journey when Pharaoh changed his mind, organized his army—one of the most, if not the most, powerful armies of the day—and chased after the Israelites.
Now, we know from geometry class that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. And that is often the fastest when it comes to traveling. So you would think that God would lead His people on a direct route out of Egypt. But that is not what He did:
17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them along the road to the land of the Philistines, even though it was nearby; for God said, “The people will change their minds and return to Egypt if they face war.” 18 So he led the people around toward the Red Sea along the road of the wilderness. And the Israelites left the land of Egypt in battle formation. (Exodus 13:17-18 CSB)
A Curious Command
God knew that His people, a people who had been slaves for 400 years, were not up for a fight. Notice the irony of them leaving in battle formation—as if that would have made a difference. Instead, God took them on a longer route. But not for long. God had a new path for His people to take:
2 “Tell the Israelites to turn back and camp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea; you must camp in front of Baal-zephon, facing it by the sea. (Exodus 14:2 CSB)
Don’t miss that phrase—”turn back.” God was telling His people to turn back toward the Egyptians. God wanted His people to turn away from a strong army—the Philistines—back toward a stronger, angrier army—the Egyptians. But God had a reason—a good one. Nope, scratch that: a glorious one.
Trapped…by Their Own God
3 Pharaoh will say of the Israelites: They are wandering around the land in confusion; the wilderness has boxed them in. 4 I will harden Pharaoh’s heart so that he will pursue them. (Exodus 14:3-4 CSB)
God was leading His people exactly where He wanted them. But it was not in the relative safety of anywhere but Egypt. It was closer to the Egyptian army with a large body of water at their back.
Enter Admiral Ackbar.
“It’s a trap!”
This is so important, and so good. Don’t miss it. God intentionally trapped His people between the most powerful army of the day and an uncrossable body of water. All the while knowing His people would be unable to defend themselves. Why?
Escaping by Miraculous Means
We don’t have to guess. Notice there is more in verse 4 that I didn’t include before:
Then I will receive glory by means of Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” So the Israelites did this. (Exodus 14:4 CSB)
And that is exactly what happens. The Egyptian army comes roaring onto the scene, full of confidence that they will crush the Israelites like bugs. The Israelites cry out in despair. And then God steps in and rescues His people once more. And once more by miraculous means—through the Red Sea, the very waters that He would use to bring judgment on the Egyptians for their iniquity.
A Picture of the Cross
Everything God does is for His glory and our good. Everything. Even leading His people into a trap. Because it was through that trap that His people recognized their complete need of Him (although the lesson would soon be forgotten) and God demonstrated to them, and us, His power to deliver.
And it is in this trap that we see a beautiful picture of the cross. Just as God delivered His people through the waters of judgment, He has delivered us through the shed blood of judgment, spilled by Jesus Christ. We are not saved by escaping judgment, just as the Israelites were not. Judgment was poured out and absorbed completely by King Jesus.
We are called to remember Christ’s work on our behalf through the Lord’s Supper. This meal signifies our great deliverance. In it, we taste and see Jesus’ work on our behalf. Just as Israel looked back to the Passover, we look back to God’s work on the cross for us and ahead to our glorious future with our King.”—Tony Merida 
Preschool Tip: Help your preschoolers see God’s nature as a rescuing God. Refer back to the steps God had taken before this to rescue the Israelites as well as other examples from Scripture as time allows. God is a God of rescue and deliverance. That’s a key concept to set up our salvation from sin as well as to give us confidence as we walk through life and face adversity. Plant seeds in your preschoolers this week.
Kids Tip: Many of your kids will be familiar with the Red Sea crossing. But many of them may not understand the context of it—how God had led them to that spot and how He used the Red Sea to picture His delivering nature and to judge the Egyptians. Help them see this familiar story on a deeper, more beautiful level this week.
 Tony Merida, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Exodus (Nashville: B&H, 2014) [eBook].